STEM OPT Extension

F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT who have a degree in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their Post-Completion OPT work authorization.


To qualify for the 24-month STEM OPT Extension:

  • You must be in possession of proof of completion of your degree program (either copy of diploma or transcript which indicates your graduation date); AND
  • Your eligibility is determined by the 6 digits that are listed on your I-20 in the Program of Study area; the numbers are listed with your Major 1 title.  Compare your 6 digits to the STEM-eligible fields listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Eligible Majors list.  If your 6 digits do not appear on the STEM listing, it means that your program is not STEM eligible; AND
  • The student’s employer must be registered with the E-Verify employment verification system and have a Federal Employment Identification Number (EIN); AND
  • The student must be working in a paid position for a U.S. employer for a minimum of 20 hours per week in a job directly related to their major; AND
  • The F-1 student must be currently participating in a 12-month period of Post- Completion OPT; AND
  • The student must apply for the STEM OPT Extension before the current post completion period of OPT expires.

STEM OPT Extension Filing Window

  • Students on Post-Completion OPT are able to file their STEM OPT Extension application up 90 days prior to their OPT expiration date.
  • STEM Extensions cannot be filed after the OPT has expired.
  • ISSS advises students to apply as soon as eligibile as the application submission itself is time-sensitive, and USCIS processing times are quite lengthy (minimum of 90 days).

Requesting a STEM OPT Extension

To request a STEM OPT Extension, please submit the following documents to

  • Form I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Students; pages 1-4 only. This form is completed, signed and dated by both yourself and your employer.
  • A copy of your OPT card

Detailed instructions on how to complete Form I-983 can be found on the Department of Homeland Security website.

*Please allow 3-5 business days for processing. All requests are processed in the order they are received. Please plan accordingly.

Eligibility Based On a Previously Obtained STEM Degree

If you are currently on Post-Completion OPT after having graduated from a degree program that is not STEM eligible, but you have previously earned a STEM eligible degree from an accredited university, you may be eligible to apply for a STEM OPT Extension under your previous degree. To qualify for this option:

  • You must have received your previous degree from a currently accredited and SEVP-certified institution and have evidence of completion (copy of degree or transcripts indicating date of graduation);
  • Your previous degree cannot have been conferred more than 10 years prior to your STEM OPT Extension application;
  • Your previous degree must be listed on the Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Eligible Majors list at the time of application;
  • You haven't already received a STEM OPT Extension based on this previous degree;
  • Your practical training opportunity is directly related to the previously obtained STEM degree

 Please contact if you would like to apply for a STEM OPT Extension based on a prior degree.

Processing Time

Once your completed STEM request is submitted, ISSS will recommend you for STEM OPT; you will be provided with

  • an updated I-20 which will indicate that you are requesting STEM OPT on page 2.
  • a checklist with instructions on how to submit your STEM OPT application online to USCIS. Be sure to read the instructions carefully to avoid mistakes on your application.
  • REMINDER: Please allow 3-5 business days for processing. All requests are processed in the order they are received. Please plan accordingly.

How to Avoid Getting Locked Out of Your USCIS Online Account Tip Sheet -

The CIS (Customs & Immigration Services) Ombudsman has created this tip sheet on how to avoid getting locked out of your online account with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This tip sheet is intended for people with individual USCIS online accounts.

Filing your STEM OPT application online

Form I-765 is filed online; this allows applicants to submit application documents electronically, pay the required fee online, and receive an immediate receipt notice upon filing. Online applicants are also able to check the status of their case online, receive notices from USCIS online instead of waiting for them in the mail, and response to any Requests for Further Evidence (RFE's) more quickly.

*Note: You MUST obtain the STEM Requested I-20 from the ISSS Office BEFORE filing your STEM OPT application online with USCIS. In addition, you should proceed with the online application process very carefully. The online system allows you to submit your application without all required evidence, which can lead to requests for evidence and additional difficulties. This means that you must be very careful to ensure that everything is included before submitting the online application.  You must also be sure to submit your online application to USCIS no later than 30 days from the date your STEM Requested I-20 was issued AND before your OPT expires; whichever is earlier. 

Steps for Completing the Form I-765 Application Online: the ISSS Office has created a Step-by-Step procedure to guide you through the application process; it can be found here.

  1. Create your online USCIS account

  2. Gather the following documents:
    • Digital 2x2 color passport photo that meets USCIS specifications. Photo requirements can be found online.
    • Copy of your STEM Recommended I-20 (be sure to sign and date your new I-20 on page one before photocopying)
    • Copy of passport photo page
    • Copy of visa
    • Your most recent form I-94
    • Copies of the front and back of any previous EAD cards
    • Copies of any previous I-20s with CPT or OPT authorization
    • Copies of your STEM degree and official transcripts
    • A credit card to pay the online filing fee

  3. File Form I-765 Online
    • Complete the “Getting Started” and “About You” sections. Be sure that you spell your name correctly and enter your date of birth in the order that is asked for on the application (these are the most commons errors on an application)
    • STEM OPT category is "C 3 C"
    • Upload the documents listed above in the “Evidence” section
    • Review and digitally sign your application
    • Pay the application fee
    • Submit your STEM OPT application

NOTE: you can skip the section on the application concerning Institution Accreditation.

USCIS will issue an online receipt notice pretty quickly after you submit your STEM OPT application packet. You are permitted to continue working for up to 180 days past your OPT expiration date while your STEM OPT Extension is pending. Please note that you must remain in the United States until a decision is made on your application. This usually takes about 90 days. 

USCIS has announced the availability of premium processing in some cases; please see that announcement here.

STEM OPT Extension Approval

If your STEM OPT Extension application is approved by USCIS, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document in the mail. This card, which is also referred to as the STEM OPT card, authorizes you to work in your field of study for the duration of the dates listed on the card. Once you receive your STEM OPT card, please scan a copy to ISSS will then issue you an updated I-20 which will show your STEM OPT Approval on page 2. In addition you will receive a STEM Extension Reporting and Evaluation Requirement Timeline; this document will indicate the dates that your reporting requirements are due. 

NOTE #1: if you receive your EAD card but it contains an error due to a USCIS error (example: typo in name or incorrect birthdate), you must return the original EAD card to get it corrected by USCIS; this correction can take 30-45 days or longer. Click on this link and follow the information titled Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  Make a copy of your EAD card before sending it for correction.

NOTE #2: if you receive your EAD card but it contains an error that you made, you will be required to reapply for STEM OPT and pay the application fee again.

NOTE #3: SEVP will email you important account creation information regarding the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal is an important tool that assists students on STEM OPT with meeting their legal reporting requirements.

Reporting Requirements for the STEM OPT Extension (Validation Reporting)

The ISSS Office does not need a copy of your offer letter.

Students on the STEM OPT Extension are required to report to their Designated School Official (DSO) every six months. This is referred to as “Validation/Compliance Reporting”. You will receive automated messages from the SEVP Portal reminding you to complete these requirements when they are due; reporting compliance is your responsibility.  All documentation is send to for processing.

To begin your validation reporting, please log into the SEVP Portal and verify that your home address and employment information are correct; then select the compliance that you are reporting from the listing below and follow all instructions on that particular reporting form.  

Please remember that the 12 & 24 Month Compliance forms must be completed, signed, and dated by both yourself and your employer/supervisor.  

Changing, Updating, Adding Additional Employer or Ending Your Employment on STEM OPT OUTSIDE of your Compliance Reporting Period

If you would like to change from one employer to another, please email the following to

  • Final Evaluation on Student Progress from your old employer (bottom section of page 5 only of Form I-983)
  • Form I-983 from your new employer (pages 1-4 only)

If you would like to add an additional employer or edit your existing employment information, you will need to submit an updated Form I-983 (pages 1-4 only).

If you are ending employment for any reason, you will need to submit a Final Evaluation on Student Progress from your old employer. This evaluation can be found on the bottom section of page 5 of Form I-983.

In all cases, please be sure to specify what changes or updates you are requesting to make when you submit your email to ISSS.

Changing Your Employer While STEM OPT Extension is Pending

Changing employers while your STEM OPT Extension application is pending is not recommended. Please note that a change may delay the application process or may even lead to a denial of your application (this is a USCIS adjudication, not an ISSS Office decision).

Before doing anything, you must confirm that your new employer is e-Verify and that your new employer is willing to complete Form I-983.

If the employer change is absolutely necessary, please email your request to along with the following:

  • Final Evaluation on Student Progress (bottom section only of page 5 of Form I-983) from your old employer
  • Form I-983 with the new employer's information (pages 1-4 only)
  • Brief email indicating you are changing your employer while STEM OPT is pending

The ISSS Office will update your SEVIS record with the appropriate information and issue you an updated I-20.

- you will need to download, save, print, and sign the new I-20.

- you will then upload the new I-20, e-Verify proof, a letter of explanation written by you briefly describing your change and your USCIS STEM Receipt notice (form I-797) to your USCIS portal.

Updating Your Home Address

Students on STEM OPT are required to report any changes in their home address within 10 days. Such reporting should be done via the SEVP Portal. Please be sure to make all necessary changes in the portal, and then email to confirm these changes.

H-1B Cap-Gap Extension

The H-1B Cap-Gap Extension is available to students who are on approved STEM OPT and have a  receipt notice (form I-797) for a pending or approved change of status for an H-1B. The Cap-Gap period falls between the end of a student’s F-1 STEM OPT status and the beginning of their H-1B status. The cap gap extension allows for students on OPT to extend their employment authorization until they transition to the H-1B status on October 1st or the date stated on the approval.  If you currently have a pending or approved H-1B receipt notice and would like to request a Cap-Gap Extension, please email a copy of that I-797 notice to

If you are on STEM OPT, you will need to submit the Final Evaluation, page 5 of Form I-983 to   as close as possible to the start date of your H-1B status. This document is completed and signed by both yourself and your supervisor.  Submission of this form completes your F-1 student status.

NOTE: SEVIS currently does not allow for Cap-Gap extensions for applications that are in the "filed" process; there must be a receipt notice.


  • STEM OPT is dependent upon employment. Students may not accrue an aggregate of more than 150 days of unemployment during their STEM OPT Extension (days allowed during both OPT and STEM). 
  • NOTE: Travel signatures while on STEM OPT are only valid for 6 months. Please check your I-20 for the latest travel endorsement (page 2). Be sure that your employer information is correct on your I-20.  If you need an updated travel endorsement, please email to request an updated I-20.
    • In addition to the I-20, the ISSS Office recommends that you have the following documents in hand upon your re-entry into the United States:
      • valid passport
      • valid visa - if you need to renew your visa while traveling on STEM OPT, please remember that the Embassy/Consulate makes the renewal decisions; there are no guarantees
      • EAD card
      • letter from employer which indicates that they know you are traveling and will be returning to the United States to "resume employment".
  • If you decide not to submit your STEM OPT Extension application, or you decide to end your STEM OPT period for any reason, you must notify ISSS by sending an email to and any required Final Evaluation documents
  • The CIS (Customs & Immigration Services) Ombudsman has created this tip sheet on how to avoid getting locked out of your online account with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This tip sheet is intended for people with individual USCIS online accounts.
  • Students are allowed to study part-time only while on STEM OPT. If you receive an I-20 to start a new full-time program, your STEM OPT Extension will automatically terminate.
  • Students who are on  STEM OPT are required to be covered by insurance. If your employer does not offer you insurance, you need to find your own insurance; a couple such companies are ISO Student Health Insurance ( and International Student Insurance (   DISCLAIMER: Florida Tech cannot recommend any insurance company to you and we have no further information on these two companies.
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